Florida’s largest citrus growers trade group is applauding legislative action to override a gubernatorial veto of a major citrus bill.

Florida Citrus Mutual hails citrus greening bill veto override

Officials with the Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual thanked Florida lawmakers for overriding Gov. Charlie Crist’s veto of a bill that would have codified the Citrus Research and Development Foundation.

HB 981 would have also raised the grower-funded cap on the foundation’s research assessment to fight huanglongbing, also known as HLB and citrus greening, from one to three cents.

Citrus Mutual executive vice president and chief executive officer Mike Sparks called the legislative efforts critical to the citrus industry’s battle against the devastating disease.

“Making HB 981 law was crucial if our industry is going to beat this insidious disease,” Sparks said in a statement sent to legislators. “Mutual would like to extend a sincere thank you to all the legislators for their hard work. In addition to the CRDF, the bill contains greenbelt language that will protect farmers from losing the agriculture classification because land is put up for sale. This is important to Florida citrus growers as well.”

The bill had nearly unanimous legislative approval before the May veto, and only two lawmakers voted against overriding the veto, Sparks said.

In a December 2009 statewide referendum, Florida growers overwhelmingly approved creating the research foundation and enlarging the research funding cap.

Based at the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, the research foundation coordinates the citrus industry’s multi-million dollar research effort to defeat greening and other citrus diseases.